Observatories Team Up to Reveal Rare Double Asteroid

PASADENA, Calif. (JPL/Caltech PR) — New observations by three of the world’s largest radio telescopes have revealed that an asteroid discovered last year is actually two objects, each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) in size, orbiting each other.

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OSIRIS-REx Successfully Completes Second Deep Space Maneuver

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — New tracking data confirms that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completed its second Deep Space Maneuver (DSM-2) on June 28. The thruster burn put the spacecraft on course for a series of asteroid approach maneuvers to be executed this fall that will culminate with the spacecraft’s scheduled arrival at asteroid Bennu on Dec. 3.

The DSM-2 burn, which employed the spacecraft’s Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) thruster set, resulted in a 37 miles per hour (16.7 meters per second) change in the vehicle’s velocity and consumed 28.2 pounds (12.8 kilograms) of fuel.

Tracking data from the Deep Space Network provided preliminary confirmation of the burn’s execution, and the subsequent downlink of telemetry from the spacecraft shows that all subsystems performed as expected.

DSM-2 was OSIRIS-REx’s last deep space maneuver of its outbound cruise to Bennu. The next engine burn, Asteroid Approach Maneuver 1 (AAM-1), is scheduled for early October. AAM-1 is a major braking maneuver designed to slow the spacecraft’s speed from approximately 1,130 to 320 miles per hour (506.2 to 144.4 meters per second) relative to Bennu and is the first of four asteroid approach maneuvers scheduled for this fall.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing spacecraft flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Airbus Celebrates International Asteroid Day with Vigilance

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus PR) — As the world observes International Asteroid Day – established by the United for global awareness about asteroids – Airbus continues its leadership in a multinational European programme that could help humanity to protect itself from future impact hazards posed by these space objects.

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Russian Nuclear Agency Explores How to Prevent Armageddon

Bruce Willis in Armageddon.

Tass reports that Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, is exploring ways to blow up asteroids before they blow us up.

“Our study is only a part of the quest to create an asteroid protection system. The priorities here are detection, classification and high-precision monitoring of a celestial body. After that, a bomb should be designed, which would be safe enough during the launch. A carrier rocket will have to be designed, too,” said Vladimir Rogachev, the deputy head of the laser physics institute at the Russian Federal Nuclear Center (VNIIEF), part of the Rosatom corporation.

“This is an international task of impressive scope. We have something to offer. But there are also things that we need to borrow,” he went on.

“Regretfully, international politics and the current state of international relations necessitate a different format of communications, so we have to wait. But we should not procrastinate: when a dangerous asteroid approaches the Earth, it will be too late,” the researcher added.

Rogachev said that VNIIEF scientists have “baked” an artificial chondrite, the most popular type of asteroids, to study its qualities. According to their calculations, if a 200-meter asteroid approaches the Earth, a rocket should be launched approximately a month before the planned impact, to smash the celestial body into small parts that would burn upon entering the atmosphere.

“Yes, some parts will reach the surface of the planet, but, due to their small size, there will be no apocalypse,” he said. “This technology would be sufficient to destroy an object similar to the Tunguska meteor.”

NASA Tests Solar Sail for CubeSat that Will Study Near-Earth Asteroids

The NEA Scout solar sail is deployed at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama. (Credits: NASA/Emmett Given)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, a small satellite designed to study asteroids close to Earth, performed a successful deployment test June 28 of the solar sail that will launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The test was performed in an indoor clean room at the NeXolve facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Watch Asteroid Day Live From Luxembourg


LUXEMBOURG (ESA PR) — The world’s first 48-hour webcast about asteroids and their place in space will begin at 12:00 CEST [6 a.m. EDT], on Friday, 29 June 2018. Kicking off this exciting event, physicist, science advocate and former rock star Brian Cox will host the first 6-hour segment live from Luxembourg.

Brian will be joined by asteroid scientists, astronauts, rock stars and experts from around the world all in the name of Asteroid Day – the annual UN-endorsed global campaign to raise awareness about asteroids, and the risks and opportunities that they bring.

Asteroid Day takes place each year on 30 June, commemorating the 1908 Tunguska airburst over Siberia, the biggest impact event in recorded history. Since its inception, ESA has long supported the Asteroid Day initiative and plays a leading role in the global hunt for risky near-Earth objects that might one day cross our path.

On Friday, ESA’s Director General Jan Wörner will join the live kick-off webcast from Luxembourg, along with Ian Carnelli, mission manager for the proposed Hera mission to the Didymos double-asteroid system.

Astronauts on the Rocks

ESA astronaut and materials scientist Matthias Maurer, the newest member of the Agency’s astronaut corps, will also take part, together with several other astronauts.

During the full 48-hour broadcast, a range of topics will be covered including ‘How to survive an asteroid strike’, ‘Scientists Rock’, and — perhaps most exciting — the global broadcast will include the joint ESA/European Southern Observatory 2-hour live segment from the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre in Garching, Munich.

Watch Live

The entire Asteroid Day webcast can be viewed live via asteroidday.org/live, or via the Asteroid Day Youtube and Twitter channels. The ESA/ESO segment will run starting at 13:00 CEST on Saturday, 30 June; this will also be available at esa.int/asteroidday.

For more information, including the full list of experts and celebrity guests, visit the Asteroid Day website.

Interstellar Visitor is Really a Comet Not an Asteroid

Artist impression of ‘Oumuamua (Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser)

PARIS (ESA PR) — An object from another star system that made a brief appearance in our skies guised as an asteroid turns out to be a tiny interstellar comet.

‘Oumuamua, a name that reflects the Hawaiian meaning for ‘a messenger from afar, arriving first’, was discovered by astronomers working with the Pan-STARRS survey in Hawaii in October last year as the object came close to Earth’s orbit. Follow-up observations by ESA’s Optical Ground Station telescope in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and other telescopes around the world helped determine its trajectory.

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Two Pieces of a Cosmic Puzzle: Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx

Originally published by OSIRIS-REx Mission/University of Arizona
Republished with permission

It began with dust. Before there were asteroids, or planets, or people – about 4.6 billion years ago – a cloud of dust and gas swirled in the cosmos. At the center, a star began to form.

With heat and shock waves, clumps of this ancient dust coalesced into droplets of molten rock called chondrules. These chondrules and dust became the building blocks of the Solar System. Eventually, chunks of material as large as asteroids, and even planets, formed from this cloud and organized according to the laws of physics around a newly born star: our Sun.

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Join the Planetary Defenders on Saturday

Video Caption: On Saturday, 30 June, watch live when scientists, mission planners, asteroid experts and astronauts from ESA, the European Southern Observatory and worldwide bring you the latest news and science from the work they do to help defend our planet. Watch online from the ESO Supernova planetarium, 30 June 13:00 CEST: http://www.esa.int/asteroidday

Hayabusa2 Arrives at Asteroid Ryugu

Asteroid Ryugu photographed by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo and collaborators)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — JAXA confirmed Hayabusa2, JAXA’s asteroid explorer rendezvoused with Ryugu, the target asteroid.

On June 27, 2018, JAXA operated Hayabusa2 chemical propulsion thrusters for the spacecraft’s orbit control.*

The confirmation of the Hayabusa2 rendezvous made at 9:35 a.m. (Japan Standard Time, JST) is based on the following data analyses;

  • ・The thruster operation of Hayabusa2 occurred nominally
  • ・The distance between Hayabusa2 and Ryugu is approximately 20 kilometers
  • ・Hayabusa2 is able to maintain a constant distance to asteroid Ryugu
  • ・The status of Hayabusa2 is normal

From this point, we are planning to conduct exploratory activities in the vicinity of the asteroid, including scientific observation of asteroid Ryugu and surveying the asteroid for sample collection.

*Hayabusa2 operation hours: 7:00 a.m. (JST) through 3:00 p.m. (JST), June 27. The thruster operation was pre-programmed in the event sequence earlier on the day and the command was automatically executed.

Earth’s First Mission to Binary Asteroid to Further Planetary Defense

NASA’s DART spacecraft is due to collide with the smaller body of the Didymos binary asteroid system in October 2022. ESA’s Hera mission will survey ‘Didymoon’ post-impact and assess how its orbit has been changed by the collision, to turn this one-off experiment into a workable planetary defence technique. (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Planning for humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system has entered its next engineering phase. ESA’s proposed Hera mission would also be Europe’s contribution to an ambitious planetary defence experiment.

Named for the Greek goddess of marriage, Hera would fly to the Didymos pair of Near-Earth asteroids: the 780 m-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

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New Images of Asteroid Ryugu from Hayabusa-2

Asteroid Ryugu imaged by Hayabusa2 from between 220 ~ 100 km. (Credit: JAXA)

Comment by Project Scientist, Sei-ichiro Watanbe

The direction of the rotation is reversed compared to the Earth, with a rotation period of about 7.5 hours.

The diameter of Ryugu is about 900m, which is consistent with the prediction from ground observations. However, since the distance between the spacecraft and Ryugu is not precisely determined, there is still some uncertainty in the exact diameter at this time.

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Asteroid Institute Praises U.S. Government Plan for Asteroid Defense

Message From Ed Lu, Asteroid Institute Executive Director

In December 2016, the U.S. Government released its strategy document on preparing for and preventing asteroid impacts in which they outlined which government agencies would be involved in the planning for such an event, and the broad goals to be achieved. At the time, we commented that it was good news that the government was taking the issue of asteroid impacts seriously, but what would really matter is the concrete steps they actually take towards meeting their goals.

Yesterday, the U.S. Government released an implementation plan for carrying out the strategy laid out in 2016. The good news is the report recommends beginning preliminary mission designs towards eventually testing asteroid deflection technologies including both gravity tractors and kinetic impactors. Since our inception, we have recommended the testing of such technologies, ahead of when they might actually be used for real, and we wholeheartedly agree with these initial steps.

Also, we concur with the emphasis on finding and tracking asteroids as a necessary step. The Asteroid Institute, through its Asteroid Decision Analysis and Mapping (ADAM) project, is working on computational tools for interpreting and understanding the flood of new asteroids which will be discovered and tracked in the near future when telescopes like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) come online in the next few years. The Asteroid Institute also agrees with the recommendation that these surveys should be extended down to asteroids as small as approximately 50 meters across. The Asteroid Institute is working on new technologies which could aid in their discovery and tracking.

Thank you for your support.

To our future,

Dr. Ed Lu
Executive Director
Asteroid Institute

Federal Government Releases National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Plan

A depiction of asteroid 2012 TC4 as it safely passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth’s surface. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) –A new multiagency report outlines how the U.S. could become better prepared for near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets whose orbits come within 30 million miles of Earth—otherwise known as NEOs. While no known NEOs currently pose significant risks of impact, the report is a key step to addressing a nationwide response to any future risks.

NASA, along with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and several other governmental agencies collaborated on this federal planning document for NEOs.

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More Than 2000 Asteroid Day Events Planned for 28-30 June

Hayabusa-2 spacecraft (Credit: Akihiro Ikeshita / JAXA)

LUXEMBOURG, SILICON VALLEY  (Asteroid Day PR) — Asteroid Day, the official United Nations’ day of global awareness and education about asteroids, has announced worldwide events for the week of 25-30 June.  Co-founded by astrophysicist and famed musician Dr. Brian May of the rock group Queen, Apollo 9 Astronaut Rusty Schweickart, Filmmaker Grig Richters, and B612 President Danica Remy, Asteroid Day began with two major events in 2015, and has grown to more than 2000 self-organized events worldwide.

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